The Zioness group at the Jan. 18 Women's March in San Francisco. (Susan George)
The Zioness group at the Jan. 18 Women's March in San Francisco. (Susan George)

‘Zioness’ group sees no anti-Semitism at S.F. Women’s March

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A Zionist group in the Women’s March in San Francisco on Jan. 18 said the fight against anti-Semitism in the movement’s ranks is close to being won but vigilance must continue.

Twenty participants marched under the Zioness banner down Market Street in one of some 200 Women’s Marches across the country. Unlike similar marches in previous years, those in the group of Zionist Jews that participated reported no openly anti-Semitic messages in San Francisco.

“We encountered nothing negative,” said Susan George of Vallejo. “We were invited to other [activist groups’] events, people helped take our picture. There were some engaging discussions, but people are more welcoming, and that’s always been our experience. The negativity was always minor.”

Though tens of thousands reportedly walked this year in marches from Oakland to Washington, D.C., the there were fewer total participants than in the three previous years. But if the number of marchers has diminished, the need for groups such as Zioness has not, George said.

“If we cede the space, others will fill the vacuum,” she said. “That is why showing up is so important.”

Filmmaker and technology activist Tiffany Shlain was among the women who spoke from a stage at Civic Center Plaza. A woman from Glide Memorial Church and a founder of a women’s mosque were among the other speakers.

If we cede the space, others will fill the vacuum. That is why showing up is so important.

Shlain, a Bay Area native and resident, expressed concern over the rise in anti-Semitism and its appearance in spaces such as the Women’s March.

“For too long, Jewish women had been pushed out of this movement [hand in hand] with the rise of anti-Semitism,” she said. “We all — Jews included — deserve to be safe from harm.”

According to the Zioness marchers, the organization seeks to maintain a safe space for progressive, Zionist Jews to participate with like-minded others. Moreover, they hope to educate people about what Zionism is and isn’t.

That was the thinking that brought Sam Lauter of San Francisco out to the Embarcadero, where the march concluded. “Standing with women and their allies, with their proud Zionist friends, was important to me,” he said. “I refuse to allow my feminism, my progressive beliefs and my Zionism to be categorized. I am all those things together.”

Zioness founder and executive director Amanda Berman said this is part of the message, and the reason their presence is still needed.

“We will march across the country as progressives and Zionists and show up for women’s rights, immigrants and refugees, racial justice, LGBTQIA rights, gun control, and against climate change,” she wrote in an email to “Zionesses” four days before the march.

“The greater the Zioness presence at the Women’s March 2020, the stronger our collective Zioness voice across the country,” she added.

Later in the email, in a section titled “Why we are marching in 2020,” the text said, “We also show up as Zionists, believing in our own liberation movement as much as we believe in justice movements for other communities, resisting any litmus tests that make us choose between our progressivism and our Zionism. In tandem with that commitment, we refuse to allow anti-Semitism and the pain it causes us to reshape or divide our progressive movements or cause us to walk away from the fights for freedom, equality and justice in America.”

Rachel Raskin-Zrihen
Rachel Raskin-Zrihen

Rachel Raskin-Zrihen is a longtime Bay Area journalist and co-author of the book "Jewish Community of Solano County." She is a wife and mother of two grown sons and grandmother of three.